This past 12 months has seen record numbers of couples separating and divorcing.
It’s normal for any couple to go through the ups and downs that come with the territory of coupledom.
However, underlying relationship issues that might be resolved under normal circumstances may be exacerbated during COVID.
Here we will go through some of the most common relationship issues and what you can do to resolve them.
Financial stress is one of the primary reasons many relationships run into conflict. With record unemployment levels and business closures, many people have fallen into financial hardship and even bankruptcy. Anxiety about the future, feelings of shame, guilt and blame all make for a stressful relationship dynamic.
It’s important to work through your financial issues as a team. Communicate openly and honestly, focusing on solutions – not blame.
Consider engaging a Financial Advisor to work through any practical issues (e.g. re-financing) and a Couples Therapist to work through any underlying issues (e.g. trust). You may be surprised by their suggestions to help you out of debt and feel more hopeful about your future.
Make a list of your bills, research any entitlements, grants and discounts you may be entitled to and work on reducing your expenses; while brainstorming ways to increase your incoming cash flow. Remember that economies have always worked in cycles and ‘this too shall pass’ (the relationship stress and the recession).
Spending more time together (working from home) can make or break a couple. For some, losing your sense of independence can feel suffocating; while for others, spending more quality time together can help you re-connect and even ‘save’ your relationship.
Either way, taking regular breaks from one another is healthy and gives you the chance to ‘miss’ each other. This can be as simple as going for a jog, grocery shopping or having coffee with a friend.
When you are at home together, apply the same respect you would give (or expect from) any co-worker in a workplace. Set clear boundaries and expectations around your office set-up, routines and noise levels in advance to minimise any conflict.
Also, find the perks – home cooked lunches and lunchtime hook-ups are a privilege!
Without the consistency of our normal routines, it can be become difficult to rely on ‘letting off steam’ when we need to and having our social needs met on cue. During COVID, it hasn’t always been possible to go for coffee, play sport, go to the pub or take the kids for play dates like we used to.
COVID has seen many people’s social networks shrink – sometimes to immediate family only. If you are working from home, you may also miss the social interaction of being in a work environment each day. This places a lot of pressure on your partner to not only meet your relationship/intimate needs, but also your social needs – to play every role.
Staying connected with friends and workmates (even virtually) is important. Make a concerted effort to put energy into your friendships, even if that simply means phone check-ins. Some of your friends may have gone ‘off the grid’ during COVID, which can leave you feeling concerned, hurt, lonely and on the hunt for new friends. Don’t take this to heart and don’t take it out on your partner. Everyone is on their own journey right now.
Look for other ways to feel connected to your community and find new friendships. Consider Facebook community or networking group catch-ups, reaching out to other parents or taking up a new hobby or sport. This will help you meet your social needs, take pressure off your partner and give you a chance to miss each other.
Have you maintained your normal self-care routines during COVID?
It’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits (especially coming into the colder months). This isn’t about appearance or weight. Taking care of your body will boost your fitness, health, mood and self-esteem; which will make you feel more energised, confident, sexy and present with your partner – and yourself.
When you feel undesirable, unattractive and unhealthy, you may withdraw from intimacy. Your partner may want to be intimate with you, but feel hurt and confused by your sudden withdrawal, likely leading to their withdrawal, in a vicious cycle.
Be open and honest with your partner and explain how you’re feeling about yourself. Make it clear the issue does not lie with them. Tell them what you need from them to maintain an intimate connection. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex. Looks, hugs and compliments all scaffold the intimacy of a relationship.
Acknowledge and thank your partner for doing the things you enjoy and appreciate. Positive reinforcement will attract more of this behaviour and strengthen your bond.
Ask For Help
Try to minimise any stress and anxiety by engaging in activities, self-care practices and support networks that support your emotional wellbeing, both as an individual and as a couple.
As a society, we have faced many challenges in these past 12 months. We are all in this together. Continue to be there for one another.
Any Couples Therapist can tell you that many relationships that were all but lost have been resurrected. Lost passion has been completely rekindled. Love that has been taken for granted has been re-ignited.
If you are struggling with relationship issues and it this is impacting on your wellbeing, please seek support from your GP, Couples Therapist or through individual sessions with a Psychologist.
I would also love to be part of your support team. I offer a range of modalities including Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Time Line Therapy®, Access Bars® and Life Coaching and can work together with your support team to maintain continuity of support for you as an individual, a couple or a family.
Focus on what you can control now, in the present. This includes your own behaviour and attitude. Even a small shift in the way you communicate with or respond to your partner can make a massive difference in the way they respond in to you and to your overall relationship.